Tag: Volunteers

Sep 27

Ask A Tutor Tuesday – 9/27/2016

Question: “My 8 year old student is very shy. We have met three times now and I find it hard to get her to contribute more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to my questions. Do you have any suggestions on getting her to open up and be more proactive in tutoring?”

It’s possible this child has very low self esteem or has gone through a traumatic experience. In your sessions, do what you can to make her feel confident by praising and rewarding her for her efforts. You should also think about incorporating high-interest learning material to engage her. For example, teach her to say hello in several different languages and how to count in them as well. Students enjoy learning things others may not know. Praise her a lot for any little improvement you observe. It takes a long time to repair feelings of inadequacy, and if she has experienced trauma, she may have heard or felt that things are her fault. Counteract that feeling when you can. She may also be reluctant to trust adults. The more time you spend with her on activities that make her feel accomplished, the more she will hopefully come to trust you and participate more enthusiastically.

It’s also possible that your student is simply shy and needs patience. The strategies above will work for shy students as well, particularly the method of using high-interest subject matter to inspire participation. Find out what movies, music, sports or books your student likes and incorporate them whenever possible. Last, make sure to take it easy on yourself and your student. Tutoring relationships, like all relationships, take time to grow and develop, and expecting too much too soon will only discourage you. Take it one session at a time, and before you know it, your student will be excited to see you every week.

About the tutors:

Pat Bayha has been tutoring with School on Wheels for over a year, and also tutors at Tuba City Boarding School on the Navajo Reservation. She is a former teacher with the Montebello Unified School District and has many years of experience teaching in inner city high schools, including advanced placement students and bilingual learners.

Amanda Carr joined School on Wheels in early 2015. As engagement specialist at School on Wheels, she is dedicated to providing volunteers with resources to help them succeed.

Have a question for our Ask a Tutor feature?
Email askatutor [at] schoolonwheels.org or use the #AskATutor hashtag on any of our social media sites.

Sep 1

Tutors of the Month – September 2016

Region 2 – South LA

– Christian Avalos. Christian made a video describing his tutoring experience with School on Wheels. In the video, Christian talks about how, after a big turnaround, he went from being the teacher to being the student.

Region 4 – Long Beach, South Bay

Janet Cho, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Janet Cho. Janet is enjoying tutoring her ball of sunshine, Paula. Both Janet and Paula are learning from one another, which is incredibly inspiring. It just shows that no matter what age you are, you can continue to learn and grow. Janet’s dedication, love and enjoyment for tutoring with School on Wheels are just the right ingredients to be our Tutor of the Month! We are very fortunate to have her with us. Keep up the great work!

During the beginning of this year, I often found myself messily tangled up into the complex intricacies of my daily routine. I decided that I needed to do an activity that would take the focus out of my own life and into something bigger than myself. What started for me as a means to give back has become an experience where I have gained so much myself.

Kristina Rakosh, Regional Coordinator

Region 5 – Hollywood, Silverlake, Pasadena

Michael Erzingher, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Michael Erzingher. Michael has tutored with SOW for about 10 months. He has been extremely dedicated and an excellent role model for his student Gabriel. Gabriel continues to do better in his academics, and it is definitely due to Michael’s help.

Tutoring with School on Wheels is as rewarding as it gets. My student, Gabriel, and I work together to implement creative, but fun, learning methods. I hope Gabriel carries what he has learned to his life beyond the classroom.. We teach each other; sometimes I’m unsure which one of us is doing the teaching!

Lancella Hunter, Regional Coordinator

Region 6 – Inland Empire

Megan Robbins, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Megan Robbins. Megan has been a dedicated tutor since February of this year. She tutors in the city of Riverside in a group setting. Although she is faced with many distractions, limited space available and a fast turnover with her students, she stays positive and makes each session the best it can be. Her positive attitude not only influences students but also encourages other tutors around her. Megan is extremely patient, creative, flexible and responsible. Her commitment to School on Wheels and our students is remarkable.

I became a tutor for School on Wheels because I wanted to contribute to the Riverside community now that I’m getting settled here. This type of service is a great fit for me because I love interacting with the kids. They challenge me to think creatively about how I’m teaching them. Something as simple as going over what a decimal is can be so rewarding when the kids and I come to an understanding together. It’s always amazing to see the dedication these kids have to improving their math and reading skills; they often sit with us at group tutoring despite the fact there are other kids playing around them along with many other distractions.

Marisol Farfan, Regional Coordinator

Region 7 – San Fernando Valley

Isaac Weingart, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Isaac Weingart. Isaac has been a dedicated School on Wheels tutor since June, 2014. During his two years of service, Isaac has tutored nine students! He is very patient in helping each student and is great at teaching math. Isaac stays in communication and logs his hours every week! A big thank you for all the help you’ve given to homeless students in need!

When I retired from teaching, I volunteered with School on Wheels because I want to continue positively impacting students. I love teaching math, especially Algebra, because the process of setting up and solving equations to find an unknown is very much like being a detective using all the clues provided to solve a mystery. I have enjoyed working with John this year and continually ask him, “What do you need to do next to isolate the unknown?” He, like a lot of students, wants to come to conclusions quickly, but is learning how to take things step by step to compose equations.

Brianna Grothe, Regional Coordinator

Region 12 – North Orange County

Katy Michaelis, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Katy Michaelis. Katy has been a passionate, dedicated tutor for over six years. School on Wheels is so fortunate to have tutors with such a heart of gold!

I have been a tutor with School on Wheels for six years, both in Los Angeles and in Orange County. I have worked in one-on-one and group settings, and I have been with my current student for three years. Building this relationship with Sunny has helped me grow and learn as much as it has her! She is an amazing young woman, and I love every experience we have together.

Trish Arias, Regional Coordinator

Online Tutoring

Jin Tan, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Brian Gray. It is an honor and a pleasure to award Brian with this month’s Online Tutor of the Month Award. I first met Brian at a partnership meeting at Harvey Mudd College while he was the Associate Director of Community Engagement and Homework Hotline Coordinator. Brian is now the Director of Tutoring at Columbia University in New York. Thousands of miles away, Brian continues to be a consistent, expert, positive tutor and role model to our students. Thanks, Brian. Keep up the great work!

My experience with School on Wheels has been nothing short of incredible. The students are quick to show me that I need to earn their trust, and that’s been a more than worthwhile investment. Volunteering can be hard work; it forces us as tutors to constantly re-evaluate and interrogate our privileges and assumptions, but that makes it rewarding. When I went back to LA recently, I got to visit the Skid Row Learning Center. Tutoring the students in person and playing basketball with some of the students I tutor online from New York was the highlight of my month.

Ian Chan, Digital Learning Coordinator

Aug 9

Ask A Tutor Tuesday – 8/9/2016

Question: I just started working with a teenager in 10th grade and he is reluctant to do reading exercises. I get the feeling he is very far behind in reading level and is embarrassed about it. What can I do to make him more comfortable and to find reading material that can help improve his skills?”

I just started working with a teenager entering the 9th grade. She lives in a group home. I was asked to help her because they thought she might fail her English class. She was reluctant to work with me.

I discovered from her Student Questionnaire that she was dyslexic, but she loved to read teen mythology books. So, we started a book club for the summer. We’re both reading Demon King and for the last 3 weeks we’ve been discussing the book. Her reading comprehension is good, but I think she has trouble when she needs to read a word out of context. Best of all, she is starting to trust me.

Last week we discussed getting ready to go back to school and the areas she thought we should work on. She told me she wanted to work on math and science. I suggested we also work on English. I asked her if she’d be willing to take a couple of assessments that would help identify specific subjects we needed to focus. She agreed.

This week I’m giving her two assessments. One of the assessments is a list of words that she will read to me. I’m hoping this will give me a better idea if she has Dyslexia, or there is another problem we need to address.

So, in short, I would suggest finding something to read with your student that he enjoys, based on his personal interests, but that is at an easy reading level. Once he understands you aren’t there to judge him, he might be more comfortable doing an assessment to pinpoint his reading level.

Here is an example of a reading assessment you can do with your student. I hope this information helps you.

About the Tutor: Cathie Alter has been a School on Wheels tutor for one year.  She is a former law firm Administrator and CPA.

Have a question for our Ask a Tutor feature?
Email askatutor [at] schoolonwheels.org or use the #AskATutor hashtag on any of our social media sites.

Aug 2

Tutors of the Month – August 2016

Region 2 – South LA

– Jaston. Jaston made a video describing his tutoring experience with School on Wheels. In the video, Jaston talks about helping Nicholas work on his resume and interviewing skills.

Skid Row Learning Center

Jiayi Grace Qin, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Jiayi “Grace” Qin. During the school year, USC sends us students through their Joint Educational Program to serve as tutors. This year, we were lucky that Ms. Grace was assigned to our group! After months of tutoring kindergarten students, Grace extended her role and became a summer intern. She comes in every day to help prep the room and snacks; then she spends the afternoon working with the kindergarten kids. Grace joins us all the way from China and we are honored that she joined our little corner of the world. When asked about her stay, Grace said, “Being a tutor here at School on Wheels helps me to get practice, self-cultivation, and actual experience. I am so glad that I can help children with their education.” We are glad too, Grace!

Allison Maldonado, Skid Row Learning Center Instructor

Region 5 – Hollywood, Silverlake, Pasadena

Diana Lee, Cameron Riefe, Alex Riefe, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Diana Lee, Cameron Riefe, Alex Riefe. This month we highlight 3 tutors. Diana and her twin boys Cameron and Alex. They have provided so much support to the boys at the Aguila house. They are definitely supportive tutors, who not only help the boys academically but connect with the students at the group home but finding different ways to engage, teach, and mentor the students.

Diana writes:
Tutoring teenage boys who are overcoming addiction at Aguila House is a rewarding experience. My sons Cameron and Alex and I visit weekly to help the boys with reading, writing, and math. If they don’t have homework, we help them write journals or cover letters for dream jobs. When they have specific requests, such as preparing for the standardized test to enter the military, we show them strategies to improve their knowledge and skills. One of the boys was interested in philosophy; so we read library books about philosophy and engaged in lively discussions.

As tutors, we also learn from our students; their life experiences and perspectives are sometimes vastly different from our own. Nino, for example, is extremely frustrated with the gentrification that is making his neighborhood too expensive to live in.

Lancella Hunter, Regional Coordinator

Region 6 – Inland Empire

Angela Zhang, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Angela Zhang. Angela has been a wonderful and dedicated volunteer since February 2015. Even though she is a high school student, she demonstrates outstanding qualities that not only make her a great role model but a magnificent tutor. Angela is responsible, consistent with her session, committed to School on Wheels and always logs her hours. She is currently tutoring two students at two different locations. Angela, thank you for all your hard work and dedication!

This is what Angela had to say about her experience as a School on Wheels volunteer:

When I first joined School on Wheels, I was exploring a future career path in education. I was a teen with no car, busy parents and surrounded by a wealthy suburban community. However, within weeks of having my first session with Cameron, my love of teaching was affirmed. Volunteering offers so much invaluable insight into the human condition that only occurs when you join two people from vastly different backgrounds and experiences. Because of School on Wheels and the students I tutor, I am a stronger, more open minded person.

Marisol Farfan, Regional Coordinator

Region 8 – Ventura County

Eileen Speer, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Eileen Speer. Eileen has dedicated her time to School on Wheels since early in 2016 and has worked with her student continuously since then. In her own words:

While searching for an opportunity to give back, I came across School on Wheels’ effort in Ventura County. I was looking for volunteer programs that would possibly benefit from my career experience. Last year having done homework with my two grandchildren, I came to enjoy creating opportunities for learning new things and especially new words. After looking into several volunteer opportunities I discovered that School on Wheels was by far the most organized and professional organization I had encountered.

Teresa Vazquez, Regional Coordinator

Region 10 – South Orange County

Brandon and Bruce Mann, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Brandon and Bruce Mann. Bruce and Brandon are a father-son dynamic duo. They have been tutoring together since January of this year. They have shown extreme dedication to their students over the past 6 months and have really gone above and beyond to meet their students’ unique needs. Brandon prepares diligently for each and every session, and they are both kind, compassionate and patient with each student. Their commitment to their students and to School on Wheels is extra-ordinary. We are so lucky to have them on our team!

I was an active volunteer in the community before School on Wheels, but felt that my actions were not going to have a strong impact on anyone’s life. When I found out about School on Wheels online program, I knew this was the program I was looking for. The students I have worked with, have taught me the struggles that innocent kids go through every day and that each student has unique strengths. Each requires a different approach, and they challenge me to find that specific way to connect with them. I love the excitement they have to strengthen their knowledge of a subject and their reactions to accomplishing something they previously believed impossible to do. It brings a smile to my face to see their boost in self confidence because they know they faced an obstacle and overcame it.

Lilian Pahn, Regional Coordinator

Region 12 – North Orange County

Chris Cole, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Chris Cole. Chris is an amazing tutor. Since the first time I met him, he has been extremely engaged, dedicated and willing to do more. His passion for helping and reaching children is incredible.

In his own words:

After just a few sessions with my first student, I was able to see how much improvement could be had with one-on-one tutoring. After asking another student if she understood the teacher at school and being quietly told, “No, we move around a lot,” I was reminded of how hard these children have it and how much help they need. It’s a shame that so many kids are falling behind due to circumstances completely out of their control. It’s good to see School on Wheels helping to alleviate some of the difficulty these students have.

Trish Arias, Regional Coordinator

Online Tutoring

Jin Tan, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Jin Tan. Jin joined us in 2014 as an in-person tutor at one of our partner shelters in Compton. Since moving to New York City, Jin has continued to tutor with us online. Jin brings consistency, positivity, grit, and interactivity to his sessions. Often, you will find Jin and his student working for 90-120 minutes at a time! We are fortunate to have Jin on our team. His students are better off because of him.

In his own words:

School on Wheels is one of the few organizations that permits you to make a direct impact on children’s lives. Although tutoring over a computer does bring its challenges, the platform School on Wheels has chosen is incredibly powerful and accommodating. When I first met my student Briana, she was discouraged and unmotivated about school. Initially unresponsive to my efforts, she slowly opened up as we played a few games and drew together over the shared white space on the tutoring platform. She was soon eager to learn. Now she sometimes refuses breaks in favor of continuing the lesson!

Ian Chan, Digital Learning Coordinator

Jul 12

Ask A Tutor Tuesday – 7/12/2016

Question: “I’ve found it very difficult to motivate my student over the summer. She doesn’t want to do the activities I bring because she says it’s not required–it’s not real homework. When we play a game or something she enjoys it but she doesn’t put any effort into the Academic Program worksheets. My student is 13, by the way. Any thoughts would be appreciated!”

You’re not alone! It can certainly be a challenge to motivate children over the summer, especially older students, who can be more skeptical. However, there are some steps you can take to ensure that you are maximizing the effectiveness of your sessions while also engaging your student’s interests.

  1. Plan your sessions with your student. Ask for her input. At 13, she probably has an idea of the areas she has difficulty with in school, and the two of you can decide together what to focus on over the summer to ensure she is ready for the next grade. Bring a calendar to your next session and plot out your remaining meeting dates, keeping short-term and long-term goals in mind. If your student knows she is working towards a definable outcome, she may be more motivated to participate.
  1. Incorporate student interests whenever possible. Use favorite song lyrics to discuss poetry, rhythm, and meter. Spend time reading your student’s favorite book series. Bring articles on sports or entertainment stars she is interested in. For math, try using real life examples. For instance, maybe she would like to save up to buy something that costs a lot of money. The two of you can work out how much she would need to save each week to purchase the item.
  1. Don’t rely on worksheets. While they are easy to prepare and definitely serve a purpose, worksheets can be dull for students, especially if that’s all you do during your sessions. Make sure you are incorporating other sorts of activities. You mention your student likes games–educational games can be a great resource over the summer. Try using an app from our digital learning database. Youtube is a great repository of informational and entertaining  videos that can be used alongside more traditional methods.

If all else fails, ask your student to teach you something interesting she learned over the past school year. Having your student review notes and materials from the previous grade will keep the information fresh in her mind and has the added benefit of making your student feel empowered. And remember, don’t give up. The hour your spend with your student each week and the interest you show in her education will have a lasting impact, even if you can’t see it now.

About the tutor: Amanda Carr joined School on Wheels in early 2015. As engagement specialist at School on Wheels, she is dedicated to providing volunteers with resources to help them succeed. She has been tutoring her own School on Wheels student for 8 months.

Have a question for our Ask a Tutor feature?
Email askatutor [at] schoolonwheels.org or use the #AskATutor hashtag on any of our social media sites.

Jul 1

Tutors of the Month – July 2016

Skid Row Learning Center

David Kagen, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– David Kagen. If you have tutored at the Skid Row Learning Center, then you have most likely met Mr. David. We are so grateful that Mr. David joined our team in 2009 and although his job sends him away on location, he always spends time with the kids when in town. Mr. David comes in two or three times a week when he is in town. He helps every age group in every subject, plays sports out back, does puzzles with the little ones, plays video games with the older kids and generally helps everyone with everything! It is impossible to figure out how many lives Mr. David has impacted since he joined our team because he leaves everyone he meets smiling and feeling happier. Mr. David could win the honor of Tutor of the Month every month!

Allison Maldonado, Skid Row Learning Center Instructor

Region 1 – East LA

Wendy Rodriguez, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Wendy Rodriguez. Wendy is a wonderful tutor and Tutor Coordinator at a domestic violence shelter in Region 1. She oversees our Saturday reading/arts and crafts club and provides a welcoming environment for her fellow tutors and students. She’s passionate about our program, never shies away from a task and is always looking for new ways to contribute to School on Wheels. When she saw a need for more books at the shelter, she organized a book drive and collected over two hundred books for our students! Wendy’s commitment and hard work never cease to amaze me. I’m so fortunate to have her on my team.

Here is what Wendy has to say about her experience as a tutor:

“When I found School on Wheels I knew I just had to volunteer. I desire to help our youth find their passion. I love inspiring creativity, instilling the importance of education and watching them grow. I also enjoy teaching my students that they can realize their dreams with enough drive and perseverance.”

Daisy Arce, Regional Coordinator

Region 3 – Westside

Zhanna Guzhavina, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Zhanna Guzhavina. Zhanna has been such a big help this summer. She has taken on individual students at two different sites and also helps at group tutoring in Venice and at the Skid Row Learning Center. The kids love Zhanna. I am really appreciative of all of her time, dedication, and passion for School on Wheels.

“After graduating from USC, I really wanted to volunteer teaching kids because I strongly believe in the importance of giving back and the power of education. School on Wheels was a perfect fit, and volunteering here has been such an exceptional experience! All the kids here are so bright and all of them deserve a bright future, which is why I admire School on Wheels and am so grateful to be a part of this amazing organization. My favorite part about tutoring at School on Wheels is getting to know every student and becoming their friend. It is so fun teaching them and spending time together, and there is no better feeling than when a student understands a concept! I learn from the kids as much as they learn from me, and this has truly been one of the best experiences of my life.”

Kyle McDonough, Regional Coordinator

Region 5 – Hollywood, Silverlake, Pasadena

Patrick Anderson, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Patrick Anderson. Phenomenal, is the word that comes to mind when I think about this month’s Region 5 Tutor of the Month. Patrick started with School On Wheels in 2014 and he has been great! Patrick’s seriousness and attitude toward his commitment to our program is immediately noticeable.
He is not only a consistent tutor but he goes above and beyond to make sure his student is engaged during his tutoring sessions, and excelling in school. Recently Patrick has taken on a second student at a boys’ group home in Silverlake. I know his new student will benefit from his support. It is a great pleasure to work with such a wonderful individual and I look forward to him continuing with our program! In his own words:

“I first came to School on Wheels because I was looking for a meaningful and useful volunteer opportunity, and was also considering becoming a teacher. I liked School On Wheels’ mission and attitude, so I signed up to tutor and was paired with Tyler. Even though schoolwork wasn’t always his favorite thing to do, I could instantly tell he was a smart, witty, and thoughtful kid who was eager to learn,. Seeing Tyler get excited by an idea or figuring something out is always a thrill. He has challenged me to be a better teacher by showing me how much more a student learns when the material is made relevant to his or her interests and life.”

Lancella Hunter, Regional Coordinator

Region 7 – San Fernando Valley

Darien Onori, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Darien Onori. Darien is a consistent and dedicated tutor! She first joined School on Wheels in December 2015 and has been working hard ever since. Darien is very patient and flexible with her student and has supported her both academically and emotionally. Last month Darien took on another challenge by becoming a Tutor Coordinator that helps lead first sessions. She has been a great help in getting volunteers started tutoring! Darien’s tutoring and mentorship with Camryn is admirable!

In her own words, “School on Wheels has changed my life. I don’t think Camryn realizes how much she helps me grow every week. I don’t just tutor her, she tutors me and has no idea how much she has impacted my life, for the better. I couldn’t have chosen a better organization to be a part of. I chose to be involved with School on Wheels because I did not have anyone to guide me or help me in academics as I was growing up, and it was hard. So I wanted to be that help for someone else whether it be tutoring or just having someone there every week, someone they could count on.”

Brianna Grothe, Regional Coordinator

Online Tutoring

Elizabeth Vitanza, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Elizabeth Vitanza. Elizabeth has been an online tutor with us since October of 2015. Her consistency is key; the energy, focus, and love she brings to her tutoring sessions have provided a foundation of success for the students she works with. A full-time teacher, Elizabeth has also dedicated her time in-person to surprise and support her online tutoring student, Tyler. We are lucky to have Elizabeth on our team.

In her own words:

“Beyond the obvious benefits of getting quite good at dividing and multiplying fractions, working with Tyler has made me look forward to Monday afternoons. I’m sure our faces both light up a bit when I log on or walk into the School on Wheels Skid Row Learning Center (SRLC) to work with him. I have seen firsthand that the students School On Wheels helps are smart, motivated, gracious, and resilient. They have caring, loving parents who want them to succeed, just like other parents do. The SOW staff are endlessly patient and provide the structure that children need and crave (even more so I’m sure in the context of being homeless). I feel much more passionate about finding solutions to homelessness in LA and I am hoping to encourage my coworkers and even some of my older students to sign up to tutor online. I work full time and have my own small child at home – if I can find an hour a week, I’m sure a lot of other people can too.”

Ian Chan, Digital Learning Coordinator